Turnbull condemns solar panel means test

In an address to the Press Club  on 21st May 2008 Malcolm Turnbull, the Federal shadow treasurer said:  ” This is a Government that says climate change is the greatest long term economic challenge of our times, but presents a Budget with nothing to say about the likely impact and costs of an emissions trading scheme due to start in less than two years. This is a government that kills off the solar energy industry in one blow.”

He continued: “ Climate change is the greatest long term economic challenge facing Australia. The Emissions Trading Scheme is the central mechanism to decarbonise our economy. It will put a price on carbon and affect the price of everything. It is likely to raise $10 billion a year at the outset and more over time. It will commence in 2010 – that’s two years away and the forward estimates are for four years.

But apart from providing for a few consultants fees there is nothing in the Budget about the ETS’ likely effects on the cost of living, economic growth, unemployment, productivity, interest rates and our trade accounts.

Throughout last year it was hard to find Kevin Rudd unaccompanied by a solar panel.  In fact I assumed that Peter Garrett was following him with several modules strapped to his back ready to set them up as a backdrop for another speech about our clean, renewable energy.

The Coalition’s $8,000 rebate for solar panels was not a social welfare measure! It was designed to drive further demand for solar power systems in order in turn to drive greater efficiencies in production installation and of course research.

Now the reality is that given our low electricity prices even with the rebate solar panels are an expensive investment.  The rebate was designed not as a social welfare measure but to correct that “externality”: to reduce the private cost of opting for solar, thus more fully reflecting the resulting social benefit.  

By imposing a $100,000 means test, Labor has ensured the vast majority of people who can afford to buy solar panels are deprived of the subsidy. Needless to say, demand has collapsed and the Australian solar industry fears it will collapse as well.

It is though Labor’s interest in climate change subsided as quickly as the applause the Prime Minister received in Bali after ratifying Kyoto.”